Originally Diamondqueen’s plan for our 2013 vacation was to drive to Washington, D.C. for several nights. J.Hooligan had a chance to take an eighth-grade trip this spring, but it didn’t sound like his style (fast-paced, little sleep). So we were going to do it on our own after school let out.
However, Diamondqueen dislocated her shoulder last February (read about it here and here). At first we assumed she’d heal by summer, but come March things weren’t looking that good. There also came the news that White House tours were being discontinued because of budget cuts, and we wondered what else would be closed to us by June. I pushed for her to go ahead and cancel Washington; we’d come up with something less stressful, closer to home to limit driving.
So, our new plans were for a few nights in Lexington, KY, and a final night in Point Pleasant, WV, to revisit The Mothman. Not as exciting a prospect as our nation’s capital, but this option provided somewhat less hassle and stress.
Originally we were going to stop at the Kentucky Horse Park on our way in, but rain was predicted, so we decided to play it by ear. Good thing—we hit downpours before we got to the Ohio River. However, as we moved farther south, the rain let up, although it remained overcast.
We live less than two hours from Lexington, so it wasn’t going to be a long drive. J.Hooligan fell asleep by the time we entered Kentucky and snoozed comfortably the entire trip. S.Hooligan, on the other hand, went out of her way to annoy her mother and me. This was to be an escalating pattern the rest of the trip.
We reached Lexington around noon. I wanted to see at least one of the historical homes in the area, so we settled on the Mary Todd Lincoln house as a good option. I always thought the house was on one of the roads leading into downtown Lexington, but it’s in the downtown area; in fact, it’s within spitting distance of the Rupp Arena and was almost torn down decades ago for the arena parking lot.
It felt good to get out and walk around, but I was the only one really enthusiastic about touring the house. As we waited out on the back porch for the tour to begin, we gazed down on a lovely garden with brick paths and historical markers. Or, that is, I gazed down. The Hooligans entertained themselves with rowdiness or lounging on one of the benches, and Diamondqueen immediately started checking her phone.
The tour was interesting, if a little long. Our guide was knowledgeable, but sometimes her spiels went on for a bit. I noted she was wearing running shoes and wished I had on the same. My back was killing me by the time we ended the tour on the third floor, but I was happy for what I’d gotten to see and hear about. Diamondqueen was less interested and happy to be wrapping it up. S.Hooligan had stuck to her mother’s side, and at one point they had to ask the guide to retrieve S.Hooligan’s tube of lip balm from where it had rolled under an antique dresser. J.Hooligan always seemed to be looming over me, even though I kept hissing for him to move to the back of the crowd so shorter people could see. It seemed to give him pleasure to look me in the eye and stay right where he was.
Back in the van, we decided to find out where the hotel was and then have lunch. Despite perplexing directions from Mrs. Garmin, we did at last locate the Holiday Inn Express, which turned out to be reasonably close to downtown. It was within the northwest span of the New Circle Road, which was convenient, and there was a small development of shops and restaurants around it. We spotted an Applebee’s, the Hooligans’ favorite restaurant. I wasn’t thrilled but we needed food, and we were right across the street from the hotel.
We were seated, then we waited. Waited. Waited. No one even came to take our drink order. After expressing loud hints within earshot of one of the servers and not getting a response, I tracked down the hostess and told her we were going to have to leave if someone didn’t come wait on us soon. She apologized, disappeared for a bit, apologized again and said our server would arrive shortly. It turned out to be the same guy we’d been throwing hints at. When he arrived to take our drink order, I told him we were ready to give him our food order as well.
Things seemed to improve after that, until our meals arrived. Diamondqueen and I both ordered the Oriental chicken salad wrap. I bit into mine and thought, “Geeze, this is awfully dry.” A half beat later, Diamondqueen asked, “Do you have dressing on your salad?” We located the dressing in the bottom end of each section of wrap; whether it had drained there or been applied there, we didn’t know. Meanwhile, the Hooligans were delighted with their chicken fingers and pizza and couldn’t understand what Diamondqueen and I were grousing about when we climbed back into the van. In the meantime, it had poured rain, so we felt justified in having postponed our Horse Park visit.
To our relief, we were allowed into our rooms early. Diamondqueen had booked a type of suite with a center section that contained a separate television and sofa bed. This was for me so the rest would be spared my snoring at night. It was an attractive, spacious accommodation, with two large beds, table and chairs, easy chair, dresser, television, and desk in the room proper. We all took to our respective beds, even S.Hooligan, and bedded down for naps.
Later, having relaxed to the point of boredom with television and video games, Diamondqueen proposed we get out and do something. The Hooligans weren’t up for that at all, delighted to simply lounge around the room doing whatever they wanted, but we piqued their interest with the suggestion of ice cream.
I checked my netbook for Lexington ice cream options. We agreed on a Baskin-Robbins just a few miles away along New Circle Road. It took some maneuvering through traffic and retracing our steps when we turned the wrong way, impeded by the Hooligans loudly heckling and abusing me just for the fun of it. I think there was something about a new nickname even more distasteful than “Chester” (and its variation, “Chest Hair”), but once I dissolved into a rage-filled episode of shrieking incoherence, everything went black. I vaguely remember us turning into the shopping complex where the Baskin-Robbins was located, then little more until I was seated at a table slurping soothing licks of my mocha almond fudge double-dip cone.
Back at the hotel, S.Hooligan and I changed and headed for the pool. There was no one there but a grandfatherly type sitting on the sidelines while two young boys romped in the shallow end. Although the covered pool area was warm, the water wasn’t. I felt my lips turning blue as soon as I descended the tiled stairs into the pool.
After all of S.Hooligan’s strides in swimming class through the late winter and spring, I was eager to watch her put her newly won skills into play. At first she was timid, though, practically dog-paddling just as she had a year ago. She dunked herself a few times the way her class did before swimming lessons and grew bolder. I turned suddenly to see her cutting through the water like a shark. From then on S. was all over the “deep” end (about five feet), as happy and at home as a seal, and about as slick.
We’d been there about an hour when an older couple showed up with a pack of unruly boys. The two seemed to lose themselves in newspapers and whatever while their darling sprites raced around the pool, executed cannonballs without regard for what swimmers might be in their way, screeched, splashed, and generally ruined our nice serene time in the water. I got kicked a couple of times and was about ready to run the whole lot into the hallways when the older man seemed to realize the tumult his charges were creating and roared into authority. By the time he got all of them out of the water, S. and I had had about enough ourselves.
We filled out the rest of the evening with baths and hair-washing, roughhousing, arguments, and coping with the sorry wi-fi to try to check e-mails and Facebook, play games, and more on our respective devices. I’d promised J.Hooligan I’d watch selected scenes of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, one of his current obsessions, so we huddled on my little sofa and peered at the palm-sized screen of his iPod, me with his ear buds, J. watching the silent screen, which was okay for him because he could lip-synch the dialogue anyhow.
When I finally pulled out my sofa bed and squirmed to get comfortable on the thin, spring-poking mattress, J. was still awake at the small table in the main room, the bluish glow of his iPod the only light in the suite.
Nudge: The expected writing prompt would be to recount a day of a vacation trip, write about swimming in a hotel pool, or so on. Instead, I want you to look at the image at the start of this post. Your nudge is to write about Mary Todd Lincoln eating an ice cream cone. Yes, I know there were no ice cream cones in Mary Todd Lincoln’s day. That’s not important. The point is to open your mind and stretch your writing muscles as you examine the notion of MLT and a double- or even triple-dip cone. Where does she eat it? How does she like it? What kind of ice cream is she eating? (Be creative, not literal. Don’t worry that flavors such as goat cheese and cherry or bacon and waffles were unknown in 19th century America. Splurge on outrageous details and let the scene develop.)
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself not writing about MLT OR her ice cream after awhile. Just follow the writing wherever it takes you. When you’re done, put the raw piece away for a time, then dig it out when it’s cold and unfamiliar. You may be delighted and surprised at what you have to work with.